Suspended SGF Lawal, Ikoyigate probe in limbo
Suspension of officials irreversible, says presidency
President Muhammadu Buhari’s fresh medical vacation to the United Kingdom (UK) may have put on hold the fate of suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ayo Oke.
This is because, the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo-led panel which investigated the allegations of breach of trust and graft against the duo, it was gathered, submitted its report shortly before Buhari’s departure on Sunday night. Because of this development, uncertainty now surrounds the presidency’s resolution until otherwise decided by the government.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, gave the hint of the report submission during a live television programme yesterday in Abuja.Confirming Osinbajo’s meeting with the President, he explained that the submission of the document might have “come up” during the parley.
“The vice president met with the president yesterday (Sunday) before he travelled. It is not unlikely that the submission of the report may have come up,” he said.
He stated that given the high profile of the panel members, Nigerians should expect “what is fair and just” from the report.Besides, the presidency yesterday said their suspension remains irreversible.
The Guardian learnt that the decision was part of the outcome of the Presidential Investigative Committee.A presidency source, who is privy to the panel’s activities, last night disclosed that the President’s absence notwithstanding, the findings of the panel remain sacrosanct.
Specifically, Lawal was investigated for alleged violation of due process in the award of contracts worth over N200 million under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE) and Oke over the $43.4 million hauled from a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos which he claimed belonged to the spy agency.
The presidency had last Wednesday assured Nigerians that Buhari would get hold of the report yesterday.Meanwhile, the development has elicited reactions from some notable citizens.
According to a Board of Trustees (BoT) member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, he doubts the seriousness of the ruling party in handling the report in the first instance.
His words: “All I could say is I wish the ruling party well and also hope it would do the needful.”But the spokesman of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said Osinbajo’s headship of the panel was an error of commission from the outset.
Said he: “Osinbajo ought not to have headed the panel being the number two officer in the country. In this unforeseen circumstance where the president is not in the country, it would not be right to submit the report to himself.
“He cannot submit the finding of a panel he headed to himself and at the same time be the one to implement it.” His position, however, contradicts the view of the Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Mr. Debo Adeniran, who held that the assumption in an acting capacity by Osinbajo would expedite the implementation of the report.
He remarked: “Osinbajo, having had the foreknowledge of what the report contains being the panel’s chairman, would not need to go through the rigour of studying it before implementation. What we expect him to do is to go ahead and implement the recommendations of his panel.”
Former Minister of External Affairs Minister and Deputy Chairman, 2014 National Conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, had recently urged the panel not to make public its findings, advising it to engage the services of foreign intelligence officers as consultants.
He warned that “under no circumstances should the National Assembly be allowed to conduct hearings into the affair of the NIA.”Akinyemi, however, recommended that the panel report could be secretly shared with the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, asking the National Assembly to quietly ease out culpable officers of the agency.He also warned that putting a foreign intelligence officer on trial in an open court was counter-productive to external national security interests.